Wednesday 31 January 2018

January Wrap-Up.

Wait...what? January is finally over? I've never known a month to go on for so long! Not that I haven't had a good month, but it certainly hasn't been as productive as I'd hoped and I've been looking for a fresh 'start' in February. Reading-wise, I've done pretty well though! I managed five reads, and it's put me ahead of schedule for my 2018 reading target!

  1. 'In The Pines' by Erik Kriek. I hadn't originally planned this read in, but I'm a sucker for graphic novels and this one is actually a collection of short strips based on famous murder ballads which sounded pretty cool. I thought the art style was nice enough, and the stories were good too. I have to say they were a little bit drawn out at times though and this really isn't my usual type of read. 3.5/5 Stars.
  2. 'Six Of Crows' by Leigh Bardugo. Just thinking about this book still hurts a little bit, the feels hit me so hard. I adored this read, far better than Bardugo's 'Grisha Verse' trilogy because the characters felt a lot better developed, likeable, and I was a huge fan of the ships for me to fall in love with in this one! 5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Matilda' by Mary Shelley. Hmm. I really wanted to be bowled over by this, particularly because her Shelley's more famous work 'Frankenstein' is so popular that I liked the idea of reading a less well-known short story by her first. The strange little story had a few good moments and nice quotes, but the language was so frilly and monologue-ish that for the most part I got bored and ended up skimming it. Shelley definitely has personality and a sense of humour though! 3/5 Stars.
  4. 'The Cruel Prince' by Holly Black. This book almost ended up being a disappointment to me. It took so long to get into the action and not an awful lot happens for the first 60%. But then, the last 30% is so perfect that it almost sort of makes up for it. I think Black wanted to build her world and that's okay. I'm counting on book two being phenomenal because she won't need any of the introductions. 4/5 Stars.
  5. 'Wolf Winter' by Cecilia Ekbäck. I'm a little gutted that I couldn't go out with a bang for the end of January. This historical thriller had some great moments - atmosphere and setting were perfect and I liked not knowing whether the supernatural or humans were behind it all. I just think that a lot of loose ends were left unexplained and I didn't like the pacing much. 3/5 Stars.

This month I read four books for the Beat The Backlist Challenge, making my yearly total so far four.

- In The Pines
- Six Of Crows
- Matilda
- Wolf Winter

This month I read zero books for the Finishing The Series Challenge, making my yearly total so far zero.

I read one book for the New Release Challenge, making my yearly total so far one.

- The Cruel Prince

I read three books for the Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, making my yearly total so far three.

- In The Pines
- The Cruel Prince
- Wolf Winter

Here is my update for Pretty Deadly Blog's Bookish Bingo Card.

2018 Debut: The Toymakers; Robert Dinsdale
Death: Matilda; Mary Shelley
Winter Release: Ghost Stories; Whit Taylor
Sci-Fi: Fairest; Marissa Meyer
Numbers In Title: Six Of Crows; Leigh Bardugo
Freebie: --
Friend's Fave: The Happy Prince & Other Stories; Oscar Wilde
Fae, Fairies & Fair Folk: The Cruel Prince; Holly Black
Trees On Cover: The Gifts Of Reading; Robert MacFarlane
Wintry Title: In The Pines; Erik Kriek
Music Themes: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Years Of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami
Cold Setting: Wolf Winter; Cecilia Ekbäck
Book That Was A Gift: The Worm & The Bird; Coralie Bickford-Smith
Holiday Theme: A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens
Villainous: Renegades; Marissa Meyer

Monday 29 January 2018

Last Week's Shenanigans (22nd January - 28th January)...

This week started off really great and I had a wonderful Monday off. I went and got my hair redone and it's a slightly deeper red than it was before, which is really nice! Mat and I also went to the cinema in the evening and watched Coco, which like The Greatest Showman was FANTASTIC. I adored the realistic references to Mexican culture and the magic of it all!

The latter part of the week I was pretty ill, so that wasn't so fun. I ended up having a few days off to recuperate and rest, and watched a lot of Grimm which I had stopped watching for a while. I also finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with Mat and we are now making our way through The Legend Of Korra which is very different but getting better with each episode.

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Burning Chambers' by Kate Mosse: Approved by Netgalley (22/01/18)
- 'To Kill A Kingdom' by Alexandra Christo: Approved by Netgalley (24/01/18)
- 'The Immortalists' by Chloe Benjamin: Approved by Netgalley (26/01/18)
- 'The Crown & The Arrow' by Renée Ahdieh: Bought on Amazon (26/01/18)
- 'The Mirror & The Maze' by Renée Ahdieh: Bought on Amazon (26/01/18)
- 'Ironside' by Holly Black: Bought on Amazon (26/01/18)
- 'Fantastic Creatures Anthology' by Various: Bought on Amazon (26/01/18)

Sunday 28 January 2018

Book Review: Wolf Winter; Cecilia Ekbäck.

There were many elements to this read that I actually enjoyed, and I found myself drawing favourable comparisons to works such as Hannah Kent's 'Burial Rites', Andrew Michael Hurley's 'The Loney' and Susan Hill's 'The Woman In Black' frequently. That being said, some parts of this read were not executed so well and for me, it only ended up being 'okay'.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Wolf Winter
AUTHOR: Cecilia Ekbäck
SERIES: Svartåsen (#1)
Weinstein Books
PAGES: 376
GENRE: Adult, Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

RATING: 3/5 Stars

Swedish Lapland, 1717. 

Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow.

While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbours’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice.

As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.

What I Liked:
  • The atmosphere that Ekbäck builds in this book is incredible, and she is clearly a gifted writer. The fusion of trying to untangle the web of lies and deceit created by human behaviour, and dealing with the potential otherworldly threat of the spirits and mountain itself made for a very compelling read, and there is something about the wild, raw force of unpredictable environments such as this one that is fascinating to read.
  • For the most part, Ekbäck created a very good story-line. She crafted her characters well, and it was interesting (and at times disturbing) to find out the 'secrets' of each. I liked that the female characters were so strong in this story, and that they were the ones doing a lot of the detective work. Ekbäck also did a wonderful job at making every conversation count. In order to fully unravel this plot, you have to be paying attention to the details.
What I Disliked:
  • While I liked the intricacy of the story, there were some plot threads that felt unnecessary. In fact, I felt that they had only been inserted in order to keep the story moving, which was a little disappointing. I also wasn't a huge fan of the ambiguity of it all. Many loose ends weren't tied at the end, and the finale was a little anticlimactic and vague. It was sad to see so little pay-off, when the 'getting there' had been so eloquently constructed.
Overall Conclusion:
This was a fairly good read. At times it was hard to get through, but for fans of the genre I think this will be a gripping read thanks to it's haunting nature. That being said, I like my murder mysteries to be well concluded and if a book is going to have so many sub-plots I expect them all to mean something. The spiritual side of the story from Frederika's POV was probably my favourite aspect, but at the same time I don't think it was explained very well. I just wish things had been a bit less vague.

Monday 22 January 2018

Last Week's Shenanigans (15th January - 21st January)...

This week has been really good for Mat and I, we got so much done towards our wedding planning, including organising our rings and starting to plan our wedding cake! I've also been looking into a ton of things in order to pursue a new career and it has been going really well. I'm feeling really happy about things to come! Also, Mat and I went to see The Greatest Showman on Sunday and we LOVED it! I have the whole soundtrack in my head continuously!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Home' by Amanda Berriman: Approved by Netgalley (15/01/18)
- 'A Monk's Guide To A Clean House & Mind' by Shoukei Matsumoto: Approved by Netgalley (15/01/18)
- 'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu: Bought on Amazon (17/01/18)
- 'The Sea Beast Takes A Lover' by Michael Andreasen: Approved by Netgalley (19/01/18)
- 'Children Of Blood & Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi: Approved by Netgalley (19/01/18)
- 'A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman' by Mary Wollstonecraft: Bought on Amazon (20/01/18)

Sunday 21 January 2018

Book Review: The Cruel Prince; Holly Black.

Have you ever read a book that you're finding only 'meh' and it's disappointing you a bit because the hype train really built it up for you but then just as you're thinking of giving up on it *BAM* it hits you with the good feels SO HARD? Yeah.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Cruel Prince
AUTHOR: Holly Black
SERIES: The Folk Of The Air (#1)
Hot Key Books
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

What I Liked:
  • The last third of this book knocked my socks off. Honestly, it had the perfect mix of court intrigue, well thought-out plot twists, amazing character development and sizzling chemistry (*swoon*) that I'd hoped to see in this book the whole way through. It just felt like a huge reward after I'd struggled with the beginning and I read it all smiling!
  • I struggled with Jude to begin with, but in the end her characterisation led itself down a dark path...and I liked it! She was so badass! Normally cold-hearted schemers aren't my thing but she felt so real. She still had depth, even if she was dangerous. In fact all the characters did, and I liked her relationships with everyone she interacted with.
  • The land of Faerie was really cool to read about, and built really well. At times there was a little too much over-explanation but as Black's 'Modern Faerie Tales' series is very much urban fantasy, it was nice to see her create a whole new world of the fae! Speaking of her other series, I loved Roiben and Kaye's little cameo! So glad to see these books connected in some way!
What I Disliked:
  • I mentioned loving the ending, but boy, getting there was rough! It wasn't bad per se but it felt like nothing happened. It was just Jude and her sister attending lessons, explaining Faerie lore and getting very severely bullied (trigger warning by the way, it's pretty intense). I almost gave up with this because I felt that Black really didn't know what kind of book she wanted to write to begin with. Either that or she thought up the cracking ending first and didn't really know how to get there.
Overall Conclusion:
It's weird, because I wasn't going to rate this book highly to begin with. For most of it, while the writing was good and world intriguing, there seemed to be a lot of info-dumping and filler plot-lines that didn't really lead to much. But the last third totally blew me away and made my opinion of this book sky-rocket. I'm so excited about the sequel that will come, because I know it's going to be phenomenal without having to worry about all the build-up.

Monday 15 January 2018

Last Week's Shenanigans (8th January - 14th January)...

I have to say, this week was pretty much filled with a whole lot of nothing! I worked a lot, and around that watched TV and did lots of reading. I've been feeling really positive these past few weeks and I've worked hard to make big changes to my life. Despite not doing a lot, I've got high hopes for the future and am very proud of how much reading I've done! Also, I've been watching a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender and love it so much!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Write Smart, Write Happy' by Cheryl St. John: Approved by Netgalley (08/01/18)
- 'The Exact Opposite Of Okay' by Laura Steven: Approved by Netgalley (08/01/18)
- 'The Belles' by Dhonielle Clayton: Approved by Netgalley (08/01/18)
- 'Paris Adrift' by E.J. Swift: Approved by Netgalley (08/01/18)
- 'The Wren Hunt' by Mary Watson: Approved by Netgalley (08/01/18)
- 'A Conjuring Of Light' by V.E. Schwab: Bought on Amazon (09/01/18)
- 'The Gods Of Love' by Nicola Mostyn: Approved by Netgalley (11/01/18)
- 'A Crown Of Wishes' by Roshani Chokshi: Bought on Amazon with Gift money (11/01/18)
- 'Clean' by Juno Dawson: Approved by Netgalley (12/01/18)


Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't

Saturday 13 January 2018

Book Review: Matilda; Mary Shelley.

Many will recognise the name Mary Shelley as the author of world-famous book 'Frankenstein'. But I decided to start with another of her works: 'Matilda'. I like strange stories, and knowing what it was going to be about it intrigued me that her own Father would not let her publish this. I definitely got what I came for in some ways, but I had issues with the short story too.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Matilda
AUTHOR: Mary Shelley
SERIES: Little Black Classics (#116)
PAGES: 110
GENRE: Classic, Novella

RATING: 3/5 Stars

With its shocking theme of father-daughter incest, Mary Shelley’s publisher—her father, known for his own subversive books—not only refused to publish Matilda, he refused to return her only copy of the manuscript, and the work was never published in her lifetime.

His suppression of this passionate novella is perhaps understandable—unlike her first book, Frankenstein, written a year earlier, Matilda uses fantasy to study a far more personal reality. It tells the story of a young woman whose mother died in her childbirth—just as Shelly’s own mother died after hers—and whose relationship with her bereaved father becomes sexually charged as he conflates her with his lost wife, while she becomes involved with a handsome poet. Yet despite characters clearly based on herself, her father, and her husband, the narrator’s emotional and relentlessly self-examining voice lifts the story beyond autobiographical resonance into something more transcendent: a driven tale of a brave woman’s search for love, atonement, and redemption.

What I Liked:

  • I have to say that the story-line and idea behind this work really intrigued me. It was a weird plot, and anyone who has read the blurb can see why. But it certainly packed a punch! I liked watching Matilda live her life, and how her journey from joy to depression actually came about. Considering the time period, this contained some very modern ideas and I felt hints of self-awareness and mockery of the literary tropes of the time while reading.
What I Disliked:
  • This book was so much hard work! Honestly, I felt like I was reading an epic, not a 100 page novella! Most of this was due to the over-embellished, flowery writing. I sat with baited with breath waiting for the next plot phase but had to sit and read through 10+ paragraphs of Matilda's lengthy, soliloquy-esque reflections on everything that went on. It got pretty old after a while.
Overall Conclusion:
It's such a shame that this book required so much effort and I ended up skimming so much of it just to get to the end. There was a shocking idea behind this story that appealed to me and I really wanted Shelley to pull it off. The language used here was a little Shakespearean and at times very quotable but sadly, there's a reason why Shakespeare could never write a one-person show. It would drag. Still - I am intrigued by what I read. I want to learn more about her life, I sense that she had a great personality and an even greater sense of humour, and I'm definitely still well up for reading 'Frankenstein'!

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Book Review: Six Of Crows; Leigh Bardugo.

I hope you're all prepared for the gushiest review EVER. I adored this book and am still smiling about how good it was! I enjoyed Bardugo's 'Grisha Verse' series a lot but never expected to be this blown away by 'Six Of Crows'!

TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: Six Of Crows
AUTHOR: Leigh Bardugo
SERIES: Six Of Crows (#1)
Henry Holt & Company
PAGES: 462
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as a Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

What I Liked:

  • Above everything, the characters! There were six main players and each of them had a distinctive viewpoint and personality, which made them all interesting! My favourites were Kaz (I'm a sucker for a bad boy with a cane and a tragic past) and Inej (badass female protagonist is badass). Also, let's quickly touch upon the OTPs in this because there was more than one and I died again and again because of them. Especially Kaz & Inej! That slow-burning, romance filled with tension will keep me hooked for weeks after reading this!
  • The world-building took me by surprise actually. It's the same world as the Grisha Verse series but I realised that while Alina journeys to many different places in short spaces of time, I preferred the detail in this, even if there were less places to cover. I hope Bardugo continues with this trend! I felt that I learnt a lot more about the Grisha themselves and liked the small nods to her other books (oh HI THERE ZOYA). 
What I Disliked:
  • Uhh...nothing? Seriously! This book was flawless and has me gripped. I need 'Crooked Kingdom' to be in my grasp now because THAT CLIFFHANGER. I don't know how I feel other than feels. That's all I've been reduced to.
Overall Conclusion:
Thank you Bardugo for making this book awesome. It is the first book in a LONG time that has reminded me why it is I love reading so much! To fall for new characters, explore new worlds and pretend, even if it's just for a moment, that magic and spies and thieves exist and make cool plans to win the day! The ultimate band of anti-heroes is my dream book, because I live for anti-heroes.

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for '2017 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't'.

As I said last week, I love the beginning of the year because it's a chance for me to reflect upon my reading last year. So many great books came out that I didn't manage to read in 2017, and I'm hoping I'll get to in 2018 because they looked so exciting!

1) 'A Gentleman's Guide To Vice & Virtue' by Mackenzi Lee.

I am totally gutted that I didn't get to read this. Gutted. It looks so good, and I am really rooting for more LGBT+ books so this looks perfect for my tastes! Plus, I know this author is on the same page (*snigger*...punny) as me because she's writing a series on Loki next, my all time favourite character!

2) 'Wild Beauty' by Ann-Marie McLemore.

Just look at that cover. Magical realism is a genre I've found it hard to get on board with in the past, but I think that's because I haven't been reading the right books. I've heard a great deal of hype and adoration surrounding this book and I'm sad that I didn't get to it yet!

3) 'Meddling Kids' by Edgar Cantero.

The fact that the title of this book gave me so many childhood Scooby Doo loving flashbacks was enough to intrigue me. Teen detectives, especially in the later decades of the 1900s are definitely something I can get on board with, and this one is set in the late 70s! I'm expecting a funkier Famous Five kind of vibe, and it is so exciting!

4) 'A Crown Of Wishes' by Roshani Chokshi.

This book is beautiful. And it is on it's way to me right now! Considering how much I loved 'The Star-Touched Queen', this book went straight to the top of my 2017 anticipated releases as soon as I heard that it was happening. But actually buying it in hardcover format and reading it was just not meant to be this year. Luckily, 2018 looks to be the year!

5) 'That Inevitable Victorian Thing' by E.K. Johnston.

Surprisingly, I didn't see huge amounts of hype surrounding this book during 2017, which is weird because Johnston's previous book 'A Thousand Nights' garnered a lot of attention. And I really enjoyed that read too! The cover is beautiful and the people that have read it loved it so I can't wait to get hold of a copy for myself!

6) 'Invictus' by Ryan Graudin.

There's something about Ryan Graudin's books that just gets me excited. I loved 'The Walled City', and adored even more so her 'Wolf By Wolf' series! Now this one focuses on time travel and science fiction, and I'm ready for more of Graudin's fast-paced, explosive action which I've come to love from her.

7) 'Wonder Woman: Warbringer' by Leigh Bardugo.

The Wonder Woman film was one of my most anticipated in 2017 and, as it turned out, for good reason. It was phenomenal and really brought this classic character to the forefront of Comic Book heroes and heroines. I'm so glad that Illumicrate ensured I had a copy of this book to read, and plan to read it this year!

8) 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber.

I think I just hear everybody reading this post collectively gasp. I know, I know. It's basically a crime that I haven't read this book and I should be thrown into the library dungeons, but I do own a copy and I promise I'm going to read it ASAP. Please don't hurt me...

9) 'Wintersong' by S. Jae-Jones.

I've been dying to read this book all year. It was another Illumicrate book that I missed out on in 2017, and is actually one of my planned reads for this month because I really wanted to read it during the Winter months! I haven't read too many books about goblins but I have thoroughly enjoyed those I did manage to get to, and this synopsis gives me Labyrinth vibes too!

10) 'One Dark Throne' by Kendare Blake.

Book one of this series left me gasping for more and asking so many questions! What a cliffhanger! I have no choice really but to get round to 'One Dark Throne' ASAP to get more action from this series, and I'm disappointed that I didn't get the opportunity to in 2017. Never mind, this book is firmly on my Kindle shelf ready!